The U.S. Is Building Its New London Embassy on a Stone-Age Campground

The shimmering, bomb-resistant glass structure will be surrounded by a moat.

One a caveman campground, now a construction site for the new U.S. embassy in London.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Add to Briefcase
Marina Koren
May 30, 2014, 9:16 a.m.

Four years ago, a Phil­adelphia ar­chi­tec­ture firm won the right to design the new United States Em­bassy build­ing in Lon­don.

And in the last year, ar­chae­olo­gists mon­it­or­ing the con­struc­tion site have dis­covered tools, charred re­mains of camp­fires, and even an­im­al bones dat­ing back 800,000 years to the Stone Age, LiveSci­ence re­ports. In oth­er words, our dip­lo­mat­ic mis­sion in Lon­don is go­ing to sit on top of a cave­man camp­ground.

“Pre­his­tor­ic sites in Lon­don are ex­tremely rare and to have such a vast ho­ri­zon pre­served is quite sig­ni­fic­ant,” Kasia Ol­chow­ska, a seni­or ar­chae­olo­gist at the Mu­seum of Lon­don Ar­chae­ology, tells Megan Gan­non.

Eng­land’s streets have a knack for hid­ing his­tory for ri­dicu­lously long peri­ods of time. In 2012, ar­chae­olo­gists dis­covered the skel­et­on of King Richard III, who ruled Eng­land dur­ing the 15th cen­tury, be­neath the as­phalt of a park­ing lot.

In 2008, the State De­part­ment bought a new site for the U.S. Em­bassy in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth in Lon­don, on the south side of the Thames River. It then launched a con­test to find a design firm to build the dip­lo­mat­ic hub. The em­bassy’s ex­ist­ing loc­a­tion, a 1950s-era struc­ture in cent­ral Lon­don, was “too small, out­dated, and hard to de­fend from se­cur­ity threats,” said Louis Sus­man, then the U.S. am­bas­sad­or to Bri­tain.

Kier­anTim­ber­lake won the com­pet­i­tion in Feb­ru­ary 2010. The em­bassy, slated for com­ple­tion in 2017, will be a massive, $1 bil­lion glass cube moun­ted on a colon­nade, with a pond and path­ways for the pub­lic (see a photo here). With­in the beau­ti­ful, shim­mer­ing design are some pretty in­tense se­cur­ity meas­ures: The glass ex­ter­i­or is bomb-res­ist­ant, and the pond is es­sen­tially a moat.

Back when the State De­part­ment was con­sid­er­ing designs, more than two years be­fore an at­tack in Benghazi, Libya, would kill four Amer­ic­an dip­lo­mats and ex­pose pre­vent­able se­cur­ity is­sues, em­bassy safety was a big con­cern. The Wash­ing­ton Post‘s Philip Ken­nicott wrote in 2010 about the de­part­ment’s com­pet­i­tion:

It might “¦ re­flect the State De­part­ment’s de­sire for fresh and deep­er think­ing about how to design aes­thet­ic­ally pleas­ing but se­cure fa­cil­it­ies. In re­cent years, the gov­ern­ment has re­lied on stand­ard em­bassy designs as it worked to rap­idly re­place or up­grade over­seas fa­cil­it­ies in the nervous post-2001 en­vir­on­ment. Many of those were cri­ti­cized for be­ing fort­ress­like, for­bid­ding, and isol­ated from their sur­round­ings and the people they serve.

In a post-Benghazi word, “fort­ress­like, for­bid­ding, and isol­ated” prob­ably sounds just about right, even in a much friend­li­er na­tion.

What We're Following See More »
ENOUGH SUPPORT TO PASS?
Senators Reach Bipartisan ACA Deal
28 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"Sen. Lamar Alexander says he and Sen. Patty Murray have reached a deal to fund the Affordable Care Act's cost-sharing subsidies in exchange for giving states more regulatory flexibility with the law." Axios is watching to see if the deal will gather support.

Source:
INDEX UP MORE THAN 20% SINCE ELECTION
Dow Jones Hits 23,000 Threshold
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS
THE QUESTION
How Much Did George Soros Transfer to His Philanthropy?
2 hours ago
THE ANSWER

$18 billion. Open Society Foundations "has vaulted to the top ranks of philanthropic organizations, appearing to become the second largest in the U.S. by assets after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, based on 2014 figures from the National Philanthropic Trust."

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Much Has Trump’s Fortune Fallen in One Year?
4 hours ago
THE ANSWER

About $600 million, according to a Forbes analysis. His free cash is down by $100 million.

Source:
WROTE LAW THAT WEAKENED OPIOID OVERSIGHT
Trump: Marino Withdrawing Nomination for Drug Czar
5 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login